The line that wrapped around the Spokane Buddhist Temple on Sunday afternoon was full of hungry people with a hankering for ramen.
The annual Ramen Fest, a fundraiser for the Spokane Buddhist Temple in the South Perry district, features Jun Yugawa’s broth recipe that has been in the family for generations. Sunday marked the 30th year of the event.
“My ramen is fabulous,” Yugawa said with a chuckle.
He learned to make ramen from his mother when he was just a child, Yugawa said. The key is to cook the broth for multiple days. For Sunday’s batch of ramen, Yugawa started cooking on Monday.
“One week is to meld the flavors,” Yugawa said.
Every year Yugawa buys more ingredients and makes more broth, but somehow always manages to run out, he said. This year he made 50 gallons of broth to hopefully serve 700 people.
One of the organizers of the fundraiser, Mari Haworth, loves the ramen just as much as the customers.
“It’s a very traditional Japanese recipe,” said Haworth. “The broth is amazing.”
The fundraiser is one of three the temple hosts each year.
“It basically keeps the lights on and helps us share the Dharma. The Dharma is the teaching of the Buddha,” Haworth said.
As the smell of ramen wafted up the stairs, Eric Kerkove, a minister’s assistant at the temple, greeted guests as they walked through the Hondo, where a service is held.
“There are two main goals of having the open house. One is for people to just be comfortable, so that there’s not as much of a sense of otherness,” Kerkove said. “The second one, of course, is for people who maybe are interested in Buddhism to have an opportunity to come in and get some questions answered.”
The question asked most frequently during an open house is “What do you do during a service?” Kerkove said.
The Spokane Buddhist Temple was founded in 1945 and features a mix of traditional Japanese Buddhist practices with Westernized practices.
Things like pews, an organ and the weekly Sunday services that the temple features are not traditional, Kerkove said.
For Yugawa, Buddhism is more of a way of life than a religion.
“It’s about compassion and gratitude. It’s about how you live your life,” he said.
Kerkove explained what a typical service is like to visitors more than a few times on Sunday, and plans to host a introduction to Buddhism class next week after the Sunday service.
“People shouldn’t feel like they need to wait for a fundraiser to sheepishly peek in the door,” Kerkove said.
Ramen Fest continues to be the temple’s biggest fundraiser, and Kerkove attributes that to Yugawa’s ramen recipe.
“That is, I think, part of that draw, something that’s authentic and good,” Kerkove said.
Christian and Amanda Morales were looking for some authentic ramen after spending three years in Japan. They returned to Spokane recently.
“We did try this one place and it just didn’t really meet up to par, because we’ve had the traditional ramen,” Amanda Morales said as she waited in line.
The couple planned to get the pork ramen, which was one of their favorites while living in Japan.
“I’m pregnant, so I have these random cravings for Japanese food, and it’s kind of hard not having access to it,” she said.
Inside, Sharon Chen sat with friends eating her pork ramen, salad and a side of sushi.
“I think they did a really good job,” Chen said as she picked up her chop sticks.
“I’ve been kind of interested in the temple, so I’m going to take a look at that,” she added.
Eve and Lyle Phipps drove into town from Chattaroy to get some ramen. Waiting outside the temple, the couple said they’ve attended events at another Buddhist temple south of town, and that the events are always fun and have “good food.”
A chance to explore a new temple and eat some more good food brought the Phipps out on Sunday, just one of their many adventures being retired in the Inland Northwest.
“There’s always something going on, and people who say they live in Spokane and they’re bored, I don’t understand it, because there’s always something to do,” Eve Phipps said. “Bored is just not in my vocabulary.”
“Only boring people get bored,” Lyle Phipps added.
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